This album is a classic 'one-off,' an assertion substantiated by the delete-bin albums Gowan released subsequently. A largely superb (if derivative) record, Strange Animal is wonderfully representative of the 1980s 'musician impulse' with its equal emphasis on player virtuosity and an 'ensemble' ethos. Less complimentary, Strange Animal perhaps has less to do with Larry Gowan's perfectly decent songwriting, which compares favourably to his peers at the time, than the players he miraculously procured for the recording. How a relative 'nobody' in the 1980s Toronto music scene collared the 'Peter Gabriel rhythm section''--the 'legendary' Tony Levin, bass and stick, Jerry Marrotta, drums and percussion, and David Rhodes, guitar'--and Split Enz producer, David Tickle, became a source of speculation among Toronto musicians for years. Despite Gowan''s richly competent keyboard playing (he is famous for both his Royal Conservatory training and his hard scrabble days as Ronnie Hawkins' piano player) which is often highlighted by catchy melodic phrasing and ability his ability to write a 'hook'' (the chorus to 'City of the Angels' comes to mind) 'one can''t help wonder how much influence Levin and crew must have had in the construction of the overall product. The two signature pieces on the record, 'Strange Animal', 'Criminal Mind', are certainly production-homages to PG, replete with AMS reverb effects. And 'Walking on Air, simply sounds like a Gabriel song, albeit with Gowan''s unmistakeable vocals. 'Cosmetics' and 'Guerrilla Soldier' are pure Levin' the former a double-handed bass line played on stick, the latter his classic Music Man approach (the 'Sledgehammer' sound). The real Gowan stuff, the 'pretty' piano ballad, 'Burning Torches of Hope,' shows Gowan as an 80s version of Canada''s Ian Thomas (the musician-brother of comedian Dave Thomas), not an unflattering comparison.
Try this record which, while dated, will reward a close listen.